Editorial: Seeking ideas on school safety

  • Posted: Thursday, March 28, 2013 12:14 a.m.

Gov. Pat McCrory’s school safety initiative didn’t receive a lot of fanfare when he announced it last week. But that may be because it’s designed to find out what school systems are already doing — or would like to do — rather than mandate solutions that may not be feasible or cost effective for all local school systems.

“We’re not here to tell schools and communities what to do,” Department of Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan said at the announcement of the N.C. Center for Safer Schools. “We want to work with schools, communities and families on an individual basis to meet their localized needs.”

There’s been no shortage of localized responses in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shootings. Several supposed answers to school violence have been proposed, from arming teachers and school administrators to strengthening school mental-health resources. Many school districts have already taken steps to beef up security and emergency response procedures. The Rowan-Salisbury System, for instance, recently held two forums for parents, school officials and law-enforcement representatives to discuss safety issues. RSS, like other schools, is planning to put resource officers in all middle schools and increase front-office personnel. Those might seem like obvious moves. But during a recent school system forum on student safety, Sheriff Kevin Auten described another improvement — simplifying school lockdown codes — that other systems might want to emulate. Down the road, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg system is exploring whether additional video surveillance at campuses can help improve safety. Those are the kinds of ideas that illustrate McCrory’s point about creating a clearinghouse to gather practicable solutions and share them statewide.

This approach to school safety goes beyond preventing attacks like those at Newtown, Columbine or Jonesboro, Ark. The reality is that students are far more likely to encounter other threats such as bullying or inappropriate use of social media. Parents are concerned about those issues, and the safety initiative needs to consider those areas, too.

In the coming weeks, the center will kick off with a series of forums around the state, designed to gather input from different communities. This bottom-up approach is far preferable to a one-size-fits-all legislative decree. Local school systems can develop their own solutions while also learning from strategies that have proved successful elsewhere.

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